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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 12, 2014 4:00am-6:01am EDT

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mr. mccain: today senator graham and i on the 13th anniversary of the attacks of september 11, 2001, this anniversary sadly and unfortunately we cannot agree and we cannot say as president obama did last night that america is safer. in fact, in many respects, america is in more danger than at any time since the end of the cold war. if we look around the world at the challenges, the aggression, the provocations, the continued slaughter of innocent ukranians, it is a classic example of what happens when the united states of america decides to withdraw from the world and create a vacuum, that vacuum is filled by
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the forces of evil and innocents throughout the world suffer and america's security is threatened. so i strongly disagree and i believe most objective observers would strongly disagree with the president's assertion last night that america is safer. by no objective measurement is america safer. in fact, when you look atwitter and facebook, you will see that isis is threatening the united states of america and urging others to come to the united states of america and attack the united states of america and yesterday in a hearing before the department of homeland security, it is very clear that our border is not secure. and that is a recipe for at
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least attempts of those of isis who have dedicated themselves to the destruction of the united states of america to be made possible. mr. baghdady, the head of isis, who was once resident in the united states-run prison camp in iraq called camp buka, spent four years there, left and on his way out he said to his american captors, see you in new york. i'm not making that up. he said see you in new york. mr. baghdadi, the leader of isis, message has been attack and destroy the united states of america. so no, mr. president, america is not safer. in fact, because of a feckless foreign policy, america is in greater danger than it has been in some respects in my lifetime.
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not in all, but in some. i'd like to say that -- and the fact is the president of the united states sees isis as some kind of terrorist organization. it is not. isis is a terrorist army. isis has the archest area in history of wealth, of military equipment, and capability of a terrorist organization in history and they spread in an area larger than the size of the state of indiana. i'd like to say the president got some things right in his speech on isis. he seemed to have read the op-ed piece that my colleague, senator graham and i wrote in "the new york times" two weeks ago, because he adopted most of our proposals. most, but not all. the president compared his plan
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to the counterterrorism approach he has taken in somalia and yemen. that -- that is so disturbing to think that a strategy against isis would be the same as against al qaeda in somalia and yemen. there are terrorist organizations in somalia and yemen, and yes, we have been killing with drones but we have by no means defeated them. and to compare what isis has done, is achieving, and the slaughter that isis is carrying out compared to the terrorist organizations in somalia and yemen reflect a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the president of the united states of the threat we face. the problem is also that even al qaeda has not been defeated in those countries. so the president says he wants to degrade and defeat the way they're attacking al qaeda in
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yemen and somalia. they're not defeated. so what the president proposed last night can possibly if done correctly degrade isis, but it can't destroy isis, and we must destroy isis or sooner or later, according to our heads of intelligence, whether it be the director of the c.i.a. or the director of the f.b.i. or the secretary of homeland security, they want to attack -- their goal is to attack the united states of america. so let's start out with what the president got right. he described the right goal, to degrade and ultimately destroy isis. he scald for expanding ire strikes to go on offense against isis. he explained the need to hit isis both in iraq and syria. he called for training and arming moderate syrian opposition forces, and he described the elements of a
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comprehensive strategy, diplomatic, economic, and military, all of which we, senator graham and i, have long champion. he talked -- championed. he talked about the formation of a coalition, his secretary of state, he said he wanted as many as 40 nations. so far he has nine. and the interesting thing about it, there's not a single middle eastern country that has joined this so-called coalition. why is that? is it because they're not afraid of isis? of course they're afraid of isis but they don't trust united states the united states of america and i hear that directly from leaders all over the middle east. they don't trust us because of the presence -- the president's bungling, incredible, bad decision after he once said that if syria crossed certain red lines and used chemical weapons, that then we would respond, they crossed that line, he didn't -- then said
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we were going to respond and then after a 45-minute walk with his chief of staff announced to the world that we were not going to strike, he was going to congress knowing full well he would not get that permission from congress. that nuance was lost on countries in the middle east that were prepared to join us, were prepared to join us with airstrikes into syria. so it is not surprising, it is not surprising at all that so far, the president and his secretary of state have been unable to convince any of these middle eastern countries, and we need them. we need them very badly. well, one of the main things the president didn't say and should have said that is that he recognizes he made a mistake. every president has made
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mistakes. certainly george w. bush did in iraq. and had at least the courage to fire his secretary of defense, adopt the surge, which had basically stabilize iraq. it had stabilize -- stabilized iraq before we made the decision not to do so. every one of the president's military advisors, the smartest people any of us know, general 1993 tray us, general king, general alan, i could go down the list, argued strenuously nor leaving a residual force behind. the president of the united states decided not to. now we are trying to rewrite history and say well, the president really wanted to, find me one statement that the president of the united states made publicly that he wanted to leave a residual force behind and i can find you 50 where he bragged about the last combat troop had left iraq and we'd left a safe, stable, prosperous iraq behind.
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a lot of howellers, a lot -- howlers, a lot of howlers about how well we had done in iraq. if we had left the residual force, the situation in iraq would not be where it is today. that allowed the iraqi security forces to weaken, squandered our influence in iraq and harmed our ability to check prime minister maliki's worst instincts. his failure to support and arm the free syrian army two years ago. i have been in syria. i know how brave these people are. i know how disappointed they were when we failed to arm and equip them. two years ago, his entire national security team, including his secretary of state, secretary clinton, strongly urged the president of the united states to arm, train, and equip the free syrian army. the president of the united states turned them down. the president of the united states overruled the unanimous
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opinion of his national security team, and that, my friends, was a huge impact. again giving rise to isis, again i've bashar al-assad the ability and capability to slaughter innocent syrians. it breaks my heart that 192,000 syrians have been massacred by bashar assad. he continues to drop these barrel bombs which are horrible killers. he continues to have 150,000 syrians dying dyeing in his prison camps. i would wish every american would see the pictures smuggled out of the tortured, starved to death syrians, 192,000 of them and we could have turned turned that around two years ago and three years, it was when the president of the united states said it's not a matter of whether bashar assad is leaving, it's a matter of when. he also said three years ago
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it's time for bashar assad to leave. and bashar assad today continues to slaughter innocent men, women and children, millions of refugees have fled the country and the horrors continue of this butchery. and what change -- one aspect that changed the battlefield equation when the president of the united states said it's not a matter of when, was when iran, who some now are asking us to work with, iran sent in hezbollah, 5,000 of them from lebanon and it changed the momentum on the battlefield. finally -- not finally, but senator lindsey graham and i were called over to the white house. we went in to meet the president of the united states after the president of the united states had said that he was going to strike syria. we sat there and the president looked us in the eye and he said
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i want to do three things -- degrade bashar assad, upgrade the pre-free syrian army and change the battlefield equation. senator graham and i taking his word for it wept out on the driveway and said we are backing the president of the united states. several days later without being notified we were stunned to read that the president of the united states had changed his mind. he had not told us the truth in the oval office. that is a unique experience for me, where i've been in the oval office under many presidents of the united states. i'm confident that the steps the president laid out last night can degrade isis but that's not sufficient to protect our people. we need special forces and advisors on the ground. when the president continues to say there will be no boots on the ground, there are 1,700 boot on the ground right now, there will be more boots on the ground, but they won't in the form of combat units.
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but if we're really going to defeat isis, we're going to need close air support, air controllers, intelligence capability, special are forces and many others. we'll soon have more than 1,500 there and there will have to be more. tell the american people the truth, mr. president. those young men are -- men and women are going there in harm's way and they're going to be exposed to combat. tell the american people the truth. we need to do a lot more. i'd like to mention one other aspect before i turn to my friend from south carolina, who was with me in 2008 at a town meeting, a man stood up at the town hall meeting. he said how long will we be in iraq? he said we may be in iraq for a long, long time. iraq, although we have sustained the situation, we have stabilize it -- that was after the surge had been
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implemented -- but it's very fragile. we're going to have to leave a residual force behind as we did in japan and germany, korea, bosnia, where we have left residual forces behind for the sake of stability. well, in case many of my colleagues have forgotten, i was pilloried. mccain wants to stay in iraq. yes, i wanted a residual force in iraq, to provide stability and intelligence and other capabilities. now we know what happens when we left iraq. now we know the consequences. i hope that all those people that called me all of the names that i am not going to repeat here will render an apology because i was right because i said if we leave iraq completely, then we risk the great danger of it deteriorating. i'm saying to my colleagues what has happened today, and the
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situation today didn't have to be this way. none of the challenges we now face in iraq and syria had to be this dire. the rise of isis did not have to happen. we've lost too much time and missed too many opportunities but we can still defeat our terrorist enemies and we must protect our people and our partners and secure our national interests in middle east. the president's plan if he implements them, if he understands that this is not yemen and somalia, if he understands that this is a direct threat to the united states of america, if he comes to congress and asks for -- not welcome, but asks for -- debate and amendments and votes that shows the american people's representatives will support them in this effort, then i think we have a chance of succeeding. but i have to tell my colleagues, i'm not very optimistic from the start i saw last night. i'd like to yield to my
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colleague from south carolina. mr. graham: thank you. if i may, this is the anniversary of 9/11. 13 years ago on this date our country was attacked by radical islamists who do not want your car, they don't want your bank account, they don't want your television, they're not criminals; they want to destroy your way of life. and the sooner we come to grips with the fact that there are people like this still out the there, the better off we'll be. and it's hard for the average american to understand why people think this way. i can't explain it. i've been to the mideast more times than i can count and i promise you, there are plenty of devout muslims who worship according to the muslim faith, the islamic faith, that would have plenty of places for me and you to reside in this world
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without fear. there are plenty of people, the vast majority of people of that faith we could live in peace with. but there's a string called radical islam that would kill every moderate muslim, kill every christian, destroy the state of israel and would kill as many of us as they could if somebody doesn't stop them. so 13 years ago, we had close to 3,000 americans killed in the attacks on our country by the bin laden group. the only reason it was close to 3,000 and not 3 million is because they couldn't get the weapons to kill 3 million of us. if they could, they would. so what do we do? we've got to keep them away from those weapons, we've got to keep the war over there so it doesn't come back here, and we need allies. i'm here to tell you, contrary to what i hear in my own party, most people in syria have two
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things in common -- they don't like assad and they sure don't like isil. and if you don't believe that about syria, you really don't know much about syria. this whole enterprise in syria started when people demanded to be free from the dictator, and our lack of attention in not responding to the needs of those syrians who would have defeated assad and lived in peace with us, has cost us greatly. three years ago, senator mccain said, it is in our national security interest to side with the free syrian army to get assad out because he's the guy that helped kill americans during the iraq war. he's the guy that's cozy with iran. well, they had them on the ropes, the free syrian army was about to beat assad, then in came 3,000 to 5,000 hezbollah fighters, iranian-inspired militia from lebanon, and the russians doubled down and we withdraw our support and the
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army eventually collapsed. that happened simultaneously with our decision by president obama -- president obama's decision to withdraw all of our troops from iraq. we disengaged from iraq, we had no presence there, and the rest is history. about the speech last night. what bothered me the most is the way it started. the president tried to tell us as a nation, we're safer today than we've ever been. do you believe that? i don't. there are more terrorist organizations with more money, more capability, and more weapons to attack our homeland than existed before 9/11. we are not safer than we were before 9/11 and that's just an unfortunate fact. the president also said that this operation against isil will be like other c.t., counterterrorism, operations over the last five or six years. no, it will not. this is not a small group of people running around with ak-47's. this is a full-blown army.
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they were going to defeat the kurdish peshmerka, a pretty tough fighting group, if we hadn't have intervened. to underestimate how hard this will be will follow -- will bite us. mr. president, please square, be honest with the american people about what we face. somebody's got to beat this ar army. this is not a small group of terrorists. they have howitzers, they have tanks, they are flush with money, they are getting fighters from all over the world, but they can and will be defeated and they must be defeated. now, as to the family members who remember this as the day that your life was turned upside-down, you will always be in my thought and prayers, like everybody else in the country. this is a day where most of us remember with sadness and it's a hurtful day. but if it was one of your family members who lost their life this day, it's the day that your life
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turned upside-down. but there are four other americans that died on september the 11th that i don't want to forget. chris stevens, shawn smith, ty woods, glenn doughtrey. they died two years ago in been geaz. i'benghazi. i don't want to forget them or their families. and we're going to find out what happened in benghazi. that's my commitment to you. now, how do we move forward? mr. president, if you need my blessing to destroy isil, you have it. if you need to follow them to the gates of hell, i will send you a note -- "go for it." if you need congress to authorize your actions, let me know. you say you don't. i agree with you. but if it makes us stronger for this body to vote in support of your plan to destroy isil, i will give you my vote. but here's what i expect in return. your full commitment to win. i'm tired of half measures. i'm tired of misleading the
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american people about what we face. there is no way in hell we're going to beat these guys without an american ground component in iraq and syria. there is not a force in the mideast that can take these guys on and win without substantial american help. you don't need the 82nd airborne but we're going to need thousands of troops over time on the ground holding the hands of the arab armies that are going to do the fighting along with the syrians to make sure we win. and the one thing i can promise the american people -- if we take isil on and lose, we will unlock the gates of hell. and hell will come our way. this is the last, best chance to get this right, mr. president. you made plenty of mistakes, so have i, so have senator mccain. and senator mccain, nobody's going to apologize to you. i think they should but they're not. and i'm not looking for anybody to apologize. we've all made mistakes. this is a time to do some soul-searching as a nation.
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me and you could do some soul-searching. those who have not seen the threat for what it is, all i ask of you is be willing to embrace reality. all i'm asking of president obama is to do what president bush did -- change your tactics and your strategy because it's not working. senator mccain and myself went to the white house during the bush years and we told presiden- president bush, this is not a few dead-enders, mr. president. it is not working in iraq. you don't have enough troops. and if we don't change course, you're going to lose the country. to his credit, he went from training and advising the iraqi army to a full-blown counterinsurgency strategy, taking the fight to the enemy. the surge led by david petraeus, and it did work. that was an admission by president bush that he had gotten it wrong and he had to change course. every president, every senator
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makes mistakes. history judges you not by the mistakes you make but by what you learn from them. and here's what i asked of president -- quit caveating everything. look the enemy in the eye and say, we will destroy you and stop. look the american people in the eye and say, we have to win, we will win, and i will do what's necessary to win. come to the congress and say, we're in this together. the american military, they're tired but they're not too tired to defend this country. if you had a bunch of them in front of you and you asked them the following -- would you go to iraq and syria to fight isil? -- they would say, send me tomorrow, because they know what these people will do to the rest of us. why do they serve over and over again? why do they go to iraq three and four times? afghanistan three and four times? they've seen the enemy up close, they know what comes our way if
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we lose. so this is a day to reflect as a nation. i am so sorry that 13 years after 9/11 we're having to deal with greater threats than before 9/11. 50 years from now, long after i'm gone, there's going to be an american soldier somewhere in africa or the mideast helping indigenous populations fight radical islam. but over time, just as sure as i'm standing here, radical islam falls, because here's the truth. what they are selling most people don't want to buy. they don't have the capacity yet by themselves to stand up and stare these people down. as to americans who are frustrated with the pace of democracy in the mideast and who believe those people can't do this, all i ask you is to pick
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up an american history book. within the first hundred years of our country, we're at war with canada and mexico. within the first hundred years of our country, we're at war with ourselves and it started in my state. this is not easy. it is not easy to this day. to expect people who have lived under brutal dictatorships, had their society divided and destroyed for decades to get to where we are in 12 or 13 years is unrealistic. and here's the hope for me. there is good news. there's plenty of will throughout the world to stand up to radical islam. our goal is to provide capacity to that will. sometimes it will be american soldiers. sometimes it will be clean drinking water. a small health care clinic that
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you wouldn't send your child to for five minutes, that will save lives in africa. a small schoolhouse where a young girl can get an education. if we're not willing to do these things over there, they will come here. mr. mccain: would my colleague yield for one question? mr. graham: absolutely. mr. mccain: i note the presence of our colleague from california and so i will make it short. but last night i had an exchange with the former spokesperson for the white house and again this issue came up that -- and the assertion, the incredible assertion that it was the iraqis that did not want to leave a residual force behind, a statement that continues to amaze me that anyone would believe such a thing, particularly given the circumstances which the iraqis were left under, including, by
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the way, every single one of our military leaders urged that we leave a residual force behind. and many of them, like general keen, general petraeus and others predicted what would happen if we pulled everybody out. i wonder if, for the record, the senator from south carolina would relate the experience that we had in iraq and our personal experience with the issue of residual force behind. mr. graham: i remember getting the phone call from then-secretary clinton asking me and you and i think senator lieberman to go to iraq and see if we could intervene and help the iraqis make a decision about a residual force because we thought it was in our interest. president obama has always looked at this issue as fulfilling a campaign promise. he got the answer he wanted, which was zero. the military told him we need some people but he really was intent on ending the war in ir iraq.
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here's the problem. without a residual force, we've lost everything we've fought for. when we met with barzani, allawi and malaki, i was convinced they were willing to accept an american follow-on force. we just had to put it on a table in a way that mattered. when we were talking to prime minister malaki, he said, well, senator graham, how much -- how many troops are you talking about? i turned to general austin and our then-ambassador jeffries, and said, well, how many? he says, we're still working on that. we went from 18,000 recommended by general austin, the last time i got a number from the white house, it was below 3,000. this cascading downward from 18,000 to below 3,000 was not because the iraqis said that's too many. it's the white house couldn't pick a number because they didn't want to stay. it's about as accurate to say that the iraqis didn't want us to stay as it is to say the
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president never called isis the j.v. team. he did. he's trying to rewrite that statement because it looks pretty naive. look forward. let's beat on the republicans for a minute here. the republican party, the party of ronald reagan, embraced sequestration. and to those who don't know what i'm talking about, it is a budget proposal that will gut our military over the next decade, to have the smallest army since 1940, the smallest navy since 1915, the smallest air force in modern history. republicans embraced that concept. if you want to defeat isil, you better change sequestration because we're about to gut the military at the time we need it the most. there's plenty of blame to go around here. here is the key for me. we as a nation have one last chance to get this right. i will make the same offer to president obama that i made to president bush. if you come
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up with a strategy that makes sense and you're understanding and you're learning from your miss stacks, as i try to learn from mine, i will with there with you. there was not much help coming from our friends on the other side when iraq went bad. bush got absolutely no support when his mistakes came back to haunt him. i will not make that mistake. the mistakes that president obama made are real, and they have to be corrected. if you will correct them, i will stand with you ... no matter what the polls show wha about the troops on the ground. and i know how you stand with south carolinians, not very well. but not about you or about us. so if you will destroy sile and mean it, you'll have an
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